A newly published study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco found that despite efforts to recruit in under represented communities in the United States there continues to be huge disparity in research among African Americans, Latinos and Asians. (In a separate but related issue there is also a huge disparity in research grants awarded to minority scientists.)
There are many reasons for the lack of diversity – historical, cultural, economic and social – but whatever the reason the dearth in research among non-European populations undercuts the effectiveness of the science and the effectiveness of certain treatments.
We know that a person’s gender and ancestry plays a role in their risks for certain conditions. For instance the risk for type-2 diabetes and prostate cancer is much higher in African American men, but there is not yet enough research that includes African Americans in enough numbers to offer to fully understand why that is.
You can see similar problems in research around the risk for breast cancer in women of different ancestry. We know a lot about the risks among women of European ancestry because of research, but less about the risks among African American women.
In the hopes of improving our own research, 23andMe launched “Roots into the Future,” specifically to recruit 10,000 African Americans interested in participating in research. That effort has helped 23andMe improve the diversity of our own research cohorts. It has also improved the kind of results we can report back to customers.
23andMe has succeeded in attracting a diverse group of customers who want to participate in research, but we could do more.